Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Title: The Heretic's Daughter
Author: Kathleen Kent
ISBN: 9780316024488
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2008
Hardcover, 352 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: C+
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: The distance by wagon from Billerica to neighboring Andover is but nine miles.

Thomas and Martha Carrier are strong-willed, unyielding people, convinced that they know what is fair and what is not. They wish nothing better than to be left alone to live by their own conscience; however, this is something that goes greatly against the Puritan grain in the Massachusetts of 1690. After property line disputes and other unpleasantness with neighbors in Billerica, the Carriers and their five children move to Andover to live with Martha's mother. Things go relatively smoothly until Martha's mother dies and leaves the Carriers her house and land. With the witch trials in Salem being spoken of in every town, this is a very dangerous time to make enemies.

Author Kathleen Kent is a tenth-generation descendant of Martha Carrier, one of the first women to be accused, tried, and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. She tells the story through the eyes and voice of Martha's young daughter, Sarah, who doesn't always understand the undercurrents of action and emotion that are swirling around her.

This is a haunting, evocative tale filled with rich detail that vividly brings scene after scene to life. But try as I might, I never warmed up to the characters, and I just couldn't get carried away by the story. I'm puzzled by this because I can't put my finger on the reason why the characters didn't fire my imagination.

Be that as it may, I still think this is a good book and well worth reading. Don't let my tepid reaction to the characters put you off. The Heretic's Daughter is well-written historical fiction, and your mileage will certainly vary.


  1. Cathy - I generally like historical fiction quite a lot, and the topic sounds interesting. I know what you mean about warming up to characters, though. If one doesn't, it can be hard to get past that.

  2. i've been looking forward to reading this one so I hope I have better luck with it than you did.

  3. I like best those books with characters that ring true to me but I like the idea of this story so I will be reading it.

    BTW, your DeWit painting this month is intriguing. I wonder why the reader is in such a spare room. Perhaps some kind of hospital like a sanitorium?

  4. Margot-- I usually don't like it when a character "gives me the cold shoulder"! LOL

    Beth-- I hope you do, too!

    Barbara-- I've been wondering about that, too. Maybe some sort of hostel?

  5. I haven't yet read this, and appreciate the "your mileage may vary" disclaimer :)

    I will get to it (eventually!), as the local Mass. setting appeals to me.

  6. Dawn--I still can't quite figure out why I didn't take to the narrator. I must've been in a very odd mood when I read the book!

  7. Sorry you didn't connect with the characters. I've heard lots of good things about this book and hope I like it too. I have a to find the time to read it.

  8. Kris-- "If I could save time in a bottleeee..." Sorry. Didn't mean to set the dogs a'howling!


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